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D&D General That Which Cannot Be Fought

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
Have you ever used beings in your games that the PCs simply cannot hope to survive a fight with, or that they can't even try to fight?

Things like titans so big you're less than a bug to them, gods, etc?

Did you do so as a way to remind the PCs that they are still mere mortals, or was there a way to overcome the being that was more than just combat?

Example of the last one would be something like Shadow of The Collosus, wherein you have to solve an environment in order to defeat the creature.
 

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el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
Speaking of Colossi, there is a big undead animated kaiju one in Castle Amber. Killing it with weapons is basically impossible, but finding a way to administer to its face the powder that causes it to fall apart is the trick. I have run this module multiple times (though not in decades, so the deets might be wrong).
 
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Stalker0

Legend
I do have a few "ultimate creatures" in my campaigns, that are basically unkillable by normal means.

In my current game, when the gods waged their battle against the Primordials, they pooled their power to forge the first great weapon....Victory, the literal personification of success. Victory cannot lose, he cannot fail any check, any contest he will win.

Victory defeated the primordials in every engagement, but there was an issue. As the true aspects of creation, the Primordials were incapable of dying. So while Victory always won, inevitably the primordials came back. Eventually one of the gods was killed by one, and the gods blamed Victory. Enraged, Victory killed one of his creators. The gods realizing their weapon had gone rogue, imprisoned destiny in a realm of "eternal challenge". Victory battered through every obstacle put before him, but the gods had put a literal endless line of challenges in his path, imprisoning him for eternity.

For their second weapon, the gods pooled together their will and forged "Destiny". Destiny was built to impose a singular edict: "ALL THINGS MUST HAVE AN END". Within Destiny's presence, the primordials were rendered mortal, and the tide of the war turned.

Destiny has been a force in many of my campaigns, and my players interact with her on occasion. In the most recent one, Victory has escaped his prison, and is now threatening all of reality. Now savvy to the gods tricks, their prison will not work anymore. All of the gods and the greatest champions of the multiverse are currently in a grand battle against Victory, trying to buy the precious minutes needed so that the party and Destiny can secure the key McGuffins needed to stop Victory once and for all.....three special mirrors of opposition that together will create a second Victory, one capable of engaging him in combat....and providing..... an Eternal DRAW!!!


So that's my example. The party will knows that victory and destiny are concepts behind meer "combat". They cannot be killed in that way, you have to use special tactics and McGuffins to do the job.
 

Richards

Legend
Not yet, but in my current campaign the PCs are being trained as dreamwalkers so they can enter the dreams of those who have succumbed to the dream sickness that's starting to sweep across the continent. The victims of this sickness enter a kind of stasis and their minds are imprisoned in their dreams. There will be some dreams where no matter what the PCs do (initially, at least), even if they overcome the foe tormenting the victim in his or her dream, the dream merely "resets" and the foe is back to full power. While that's likely to be a bit frustrating at first, I fully intend for the PCs (over the course of the campaign) to learn the reasons why some of these dream foes are so powerful, and they'll also learn the secret to eventually overcoming them.

But the only effects of being slain in dream battle against these powerful foes is for the PC to be ejected from the victim's dream, so no real harm done (other than to their pride).

Johnathan
 

Yep. In my current campaign, I'm working on a mythical fey creature the size of a castle that gets unleashed on a PC kingdom. It's beyond mortal weapons, and I haven't decided if this should be decided by mass combat (we're using Paizo's rules at the moment) or turning the creature's body into a dungeon (disable enough parts and it retreats or even ceases to function).

Ultimately, "unbeatable" creatures are more like a puzzle in my games. Not every puzzle, however, will have a solution that results in a PC win.
 

I've occasionally used gods, but never intentially in a situation where the players were meaningfully expected to face them in combat. Although back in the day a player had a high level 1E magic-user PC claim he could take a god, so I had one show up from Legends and Lore. It was a pretty weak one, and even so he humiliated the character soundly (I was merciful and chose not to kill him, but did take half his magic items in "tribute").
 

Xetheral

Three-Headed Sirrush
Have you ever used beings in your games that the PCs simply cannot hope to survive a fight with, or that they can't even try to fight?

Things like titans so big you're less than a bug to them, gods, etc?

Did you do so as a way to remind the PCs that they are still mere mortals, or was there a way to overcome the being that was more than just combat?

Example of the last one would be something like Shadow of The Collosus, wherein you have to solve an environment in order to defeat the creature.
Yes, my homebrew world is full of "bigger fish" NPCs and some of them are so "big" as to be practically unbeatable in combat. That doesn't mean the PCs can't choose to oppose such creatures, but victory (if any) isn't going to be through traditional combat.

(I imagine the strategies with the highest likelihood of success would be political machinations, an environmental kill, or else a "Let's You and Him Fight" scenario, but in none of my sandbox campaigns have the PCs opted to try.)
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
I do have a few "ultimate creatures" in my campaigns, that are basically unkillable by normal means.

In my current game, when the gods waged their battle against the Primordials, they pooled their power to forge the first great weapon....Victory, the literal personification of success. Victory cannot lose, he cannot fail any check, any contest he will win.

Victory defeated the primordials in every engagement, but there was an issue. As the true aspects of creation, the Primordials were incapable of dying. So while Victory always won, inevitably the primordials came back. Eventually one of the gods was killed by one, and the gods blamed Victory. Enraged, Victory killed one of his creators. The gods realizing their weapon had gone rogue, imprisoned destiny in a realm of "eternal challenge". Victory battered through every obstacle put before him, but the gods had put a literal endless line of challenges in his path, imprisoning him for eternity.

For their second weapon, the gods pooled together their will and forged "Destiny". Destiny was built to impose a singular edict: "ALL THINGS MUST HAVE AN END". Within Destiny's presence, the primordials were rendered mortal, and the tide of the war turned.

Destiny has been a force in many of my campaigns, and my players interact with her on occasion. In the most recent one, Victory has escaped his prison, and is now threatening all of reality. Now savvy to the gods tricks, their prison will not work anymore. All of the gods and the greatest champions of the multiverse are currently in a grand battle against Victory, trying to buy the precious minutes needed so that the party and Destiny can secure the key McGuffins needed to stop Victory once and for all.....three special mirrors of opposition that together will create a second Victory, one capable of engaging him in combat....and providing..... an Eternal DRAW!!!


So that's my example. The party will knows that victory and destiny are concepts behind meer "combat". They cannot be killed in that way, you have to use special tactics and McGuffins to do the job.
That is rad as hell.
Yep. In my current campaign, I'm working on a mythical fey creature the size of a castle that gets unleashed on a PC kingdom. It's beyond mortal weapons, and I haven't decided if this should be decided by mass combat (we're using Paizo's rules at the moment) or turning the creature's body into a dungeon (disable enough parts and it retreats or even ceases to function).

Ultimately, "unbeatable" creatures are more like a puzzle in my games. Not every puzzle, however, will have a solution that results in a PC win.
Hell yeah. I love that. Monster as puzzle is something I’ve been iterating on for my own TTRPG.
 

Vestiges.

In the Ashen Lands, Vestiges are unique entities or, more often, compilations of entities bound together and reduced to less than the sum of their parts. The Wasteland, Trauma, and Time all work together to "Flanderize" these entities and distill them into a single aspect.

The Chained King, for example, is a King who is imprisoned. Literally wrapped in chains. What's his name? No one knows. What was he king of? No one knows. It's not written anywhere, it's not known by anyone.

Let's say you go to the Wasteland (A Plane where the mistakes of the Gods are left to wither away next to failed mortal imaginings, hopes, and dreams) and you find the Chained King. You head through the castle, there, and find him in the prison tower. You shatter the door. You burst into his cell, you break his bonds...

He remains trapped. Straining against nothing in his attempt to escape. Because he is the Chained King. The chains will reform over time. Because he is the Chained King.

This is all he can ever be. He can be no more. He can be no less.

Destroy him, utterly. And he will still be the Chained King.

Most of the Vestiges, though, aren't as passive as he is. The Inferno, the condemned and vengeful souls of all who have been put to the torch, will try to burn you to ash before they can be destroyed. Ikkugskaldr, the Ice Singer, will try to consume you because she is Hunger incarnate. And the Wishing King will seek to set you aside.

These things can never, truly, be beaten. They're simply too conceptual for it. And they're far more likely to destroy you in their stride than be destroyed.

 

hydra-jpg.86912


The ultimate antagonist in my campaign is called Hydra; a huge and powerful creature from beyond time and space. It is a sight too terrible to behold. Huge tentacles reaching down from the darkness that covers the cavernous roof of the Eternal Depths, where those that died at sea ultimately go. It speaks directly into the minds of mortals, and reminds them their souls are but a tasty snack to this god-like creature.

Although my players want to defeat this evil, I honestly don't know how they can succeed at this task.
 
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cbwjm

Hero
The gods would be largely unstoppable by mortals. Apart from them, I don't think I've had/have anything that a sufficiently powerful party couldn't defeat.

If a god comes down to talk to you (for whatever reason) and you decide to disrespect them, then you'll be affected by a hold person spell at best or obliterated at worst, no save.
 

hydra-jpg.86912


The ultimate antagonist in my campaign is called Hydra; a huge and powerful creature from beyond time and space. It is a sight too terrible to behold. Huge tentacles reaching down from the darkness that covers the cavernous roof of the Eternal Depths, where those that died at sea ultimately go. It speaks directly into the minds of mortals, and reminds them their souls are but a tasty snack to this god-like creature.

Although my players want to defeat this evil, I honestly don't know how they can succeed at this task.
Can I offer a potential solution?

The Gods are old. They struggle to follow the advancement of society and lives. While Artificers have been around for decades, no God claims their craft as it's own. Oh, there may be deities of invention. But the blending of magic and science is so new to them as to be opaque. They may understand it as well as a peasant with no interest might learn magic from his child. Slowly, and only with great enthusiasm from the child.

The Old Gods of the Forest are older still. Ancient beings whose existence is shadowed paths, sun-lit meadows, and the cycles of life and death. To them, a fence is mere underbrush. A house is a deadfall of limbs and trees. For that is all that they can imagine these things to be, lacking the concept in their ancient lives. An axe is nothing to them until the blade bites into the tree. Then it becomes known as danger, as death, as the fangs of some strange predator.

The Ancient Ones, those from beyond the stars, understand nothing of our world. Their minds are alien, containing patterns no mortal could ever hope to understand. But if you can find the edge of a pattern, the merest flicker of understanding, without losing yourself to unknowable madness, you can trap them in their own cycles. Cycles that they will not break. Can not break. Because the concept of escaping from such a thing has never occurred to them.

This is how the Gods trapped the Ancient Ones in the first place. And now that the cycles are broken, a new cycle must be created, a new maze for their impossible minds.

And then give the players the chance to learn complex information about the Hydra through the minds it's touched. Occultists and Madmen, fools and dreamers, as a way to learn some -aspect- of it's thought, so they can create a symbolic ritual, one which relies on Representational Magic, to contain the ancient thing. Not because some great wall of reality has bent to contain it. But because it will -believe- itself to be trapped... and thus be trapped.
 

And then give the players the chance to learn complex information about the Hydra through the minds it's touched. Occultists and Madmen, fools and dreamers, as a way to learn some -aspect- of it's thought, so they can create a symbolic ritual, one which relies on Representational Magic, to contain the ancient thing. Not because some great wall of reality has bent to contain it. But because it will -believe- itself to be trapped... and thus be trapped.
Interesting. Originally when I introduced Hydra to my campaign (several years ago), I did so with the idea that the pc's would some day venture into the Eternal Depths. As the campaign progressed, I fleshed out the story more of how this being came into that realm.

The God of Death had decided that it would share some of his responsibilities with a new patron deity of sailors: The Lady of the Waves. But during the transition period, 2 great evils helped Hydra take control of the realm and banished the deity from her own realm. Hydra maintains an icy grip on the Depths. It consumes the souls of the dead, and disrups the natural cycle of life and death. Souls consumed by Hydra are lost forever!

As Hydra's role in the story developed, my players decided that they would find a way to defeat Hydra. One method they've considered, is to restore the temple of the Lady of the Waves and thus weaken Hydra's hold of the realm. Not a bad plan honestly.
 

Dausuul

Legend
Have you ever used beings in your games that the PCs simply cannot hope to survive a fight with, or that they can't even try to fight?

Things like titans so big you're less than a bug to them, gods, etc?

Did you do so as a way to remind the PCs that they are still mere mortals, or was there a way to overcome the being that was more than just combat?

Example of the last one would be something like Shadow of The Collosus, wherein you have to solve an environment in order to defeat the creature.
One adventure, I had a monstrous crocodile whose digestive tract was a dungeon. The PCs had to pilot their enchanted boat through the rolling boulders of its gizzard, the acid lake of its stomach, and the twisting passage of its intestines, while fighting assorted parasites.

The final exit was... not as triumphal as dungeon exits usually are.
 

I've done stuff like this before. I generally try to run it as a skill challenge. But with that, it always seems like there's one player that tries to just approach it like standard combat, and then gets mad/frustrated when that doesn't work.
 

Dausuul

Legend
I've done stuff like this before. I generally try to run it as a skill challenge. But with that, it always seems like there's one player that tries to just approach it like standard combat, and then gets mad/frustrated when that doesn't work.
The thing is, D&D trains players to do exactly that. Are you fighting a dragon so big its toenail is longer than you are? No problem, you can hack it to death with your thumbtack sword. So why wouldn't you try to do the same thing to Godzilla, or an elder titan, or what have you? The game teaches you to ignore questions of relative scale.

As DMs, we have to go out of our way to push players out of "combat mode" when confronting a thing that looks like a monster. As I recall, in the giant crocodile scenario, the crocodile simply swallowed the PCs' boat whole--they barely got a chance to try to attack the thing before they were inside it. Then they were dodging boulders, which nudged them into "navigating terrain hazards" mode.
 
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Absolutely agree there. D&D doesn't have to be combat-centric, but when so many of certain classes' tools are combat-based, some players are always going to think in those terms. I can say "your weapons and spells are incapable of directly harming this and you must rely on your skills and quick-thinking" and someone will still swing their axe at it anyway when their turn comes up.

The thing is, D&D trains players to do exactly that. Are you fighting a dragon so big its toenail is longer than you are? No problem, you can hack it to death with your thumbtack sword. So why wouldn't you try to do the same thing to Godzilla, or an elder titan, or what have you? The game teaches you to ignore questions of relative scale.

As DMs, we have to go out of our way to push players out of "combat mode" when confronting a thing that looks like a monster. As I recall, in the giant crocodile scenario, the crocodile simply swallowed the PCs' boat whole--they barely got a chance to try to attack the thing before they were inside it. Then they were dodging boulders, which nudged them into "navigating terrain hazards" mode.
 

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